Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto
Residents of Tangaza Local Government Area of Sokoto State, have opened up on why an armed group is currently imposing compulsory levies on them and punishing the defaulters. Reports broke out on Friday that some armed group carrying sophisticated weapons is currently in control of the council by applying ‘strange laws’ and punishing defaulters.
A resident of the area, Mallam Bello Tangaza, who spoke with Saturday Sun on the development said that the armed group was invited by the leaders of the communities few months ago. He said that though only ten members of the armed group were invited for security purpose, but they have ended up mobilizing others to terrorise the communities.
“What actually happened was that our communities were infringed by the activities of armed bandits from Zamfara State; we were inundated with cases of kidnappings, cattle rustling and our Nigerian securities were not doing much to curtail the situation,” Tangaza said. “So, our people were fed up and decided to contact these people, whom we all known as vigilance group. “The invitation became necessary when some armed bandits kidnapped our community leader (village head). This group came to our land during last Salah celebration (Eid el-Kabir). They came after police failed to rescue the victims. Our leader was rescued alive and we also recovered all our cattle and sheep earlier stolen by these bandits.
“Along the line, we accommodated them and even gave out our daughters to them in marriage. We also agreed to be contributing some stipends for their welfare since they are now our guests as security guards. All these were pre-arranged on just mutual understanding and in appreciation of their defence drive. But suddenly they broke this understanding and started going beyond their bounds. Now, they are forcing us to pay some levies without our volition. They have turned against us,” Tangaza explained.
Another resident who pleaded anonymity said the group who are Arabic in nature were nationalities of Mali, Libya and Sudan. “These people are now moving from home to home with assorted weapons, preaching Islamic teachings, forcefully collecting alms (Zakat) and flogging defaulters. People with cows pay as high as N500 and those with rams are paying N200,” he said.
The Local Government Information Officer, Bala Ibrahim Gidan-Madi confirmed that the State Police Commissioner, Alhaji Murtala Mani, has visited the communities as part of effort to beef up security measures.
Also Sokoto police spokesperson, Cordelia Nwawe, confirmed to journalists in Sokoto yesterday that the police would address the media as soon as the commissioner returned from the area.
The Director General on Media and Publicity to the State Governor, Mallam Abubakar Shekara, had earlier confirmed the report on behalf of the state government.
However, the Nigeria Police Force has said the people sighted between Sokoto and Niger border were not bandits but herders from Mali, their wives and children with their cattle, camels and donkeys.
According to the police, “they come to same area annually from Mali to Nigeria border area in search of water for their cattle. The herders did not enter the Nigerian territory before they went back since on Tuesday, November 27, 2018, and no attack on any person or damage to farm crops was recorded.
“The Force therefore enjoins the people of Sokoto State and environs not to panic but to go about their law duties without any fear or apprehension.”